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Party Organization and Electoral Competition



We propose a model in which two parties select the internal organization that helps them win the election. Party choices provide incentives to the politicians who represent them. Depending on whether politicians are opportunistic or partisan, we identify four effects. First, a selection effect: intraparty competition gives parties more candidates to choose from. Second, an incentive effect: intraparty competition adds a hurdle and impacts on candidates' incentives. Third, a trust effect: because of the incentive effect, intraparty competition is a signal to uninformed voters. Finally, with partisan preferences, an ideology effect appears. Ideology is a public good in a competitive party and induces free riding. Intraparty competition is valuable when voters are badly informed or intraparty competition is weak. These results rationalize the introduction of direct primaries in the United States, the organizational changes in Western European parties since 1960, and the organizational differences between centrist and extreme parties. (JEL D23, D72, D81) The Author 2009. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Yale University. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email:, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Nicolas Sahuguet, 2010. "Party Organization and Electoral Competition," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 26(2), pages 212-242.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:jleorg:v:26:y::i:2:p:212-242

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    Cited by:

    1. Rafael Hortala-Vallve & Hannes Mueller, 2015. "Primaries: the unifying force," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 163(3), pages 289-305, June.
    2. Castanheira, Micael & Nicodème, Gaëtan & Profeta, Paola, 2011. "On the political economics of tax reforms," CEPR Discussion Papers 8507, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. Bernard Grofman & Orestis Troumpounis & Dimitrios Xefteris, 2016. "Electoral competition with primaries and quality asymmetries," Working Papers 135286117, Lancaster University Management School, Economics Department.
    4. Thomas Braendle & Alois Stutzer, 2017. "Voters and Representatives: How Should Representatives Be Selected?," CREMA Working Paper Series 2017-05, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
    5. Aragón Fernando M., 2013. "Political Parties, Candidate Selection, and Quality of Government," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 13(2), pages 783-810, August.
    6. Micael Castanheira & Benoît Crutzen & Nicolas Sahuguet, 2010. "The Impact of Party Organization on Electoral Outcomes," Revue économique, Presses de Sciences-Po, vol. 61(4), pages 677-695.
    7. Motz, Nicolas, 2012. "Who emerges from smoke-filled rooms? Political parties and candidate selection," MPRA Paper 42678, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. Fernando Aragón, 2014. "Why do parties use primaries?: Political selection versus candidate incentives," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 160(1), pages 205-225, July.
    9. Casas, Agustin, 2013. "Partisan politics : parties, primaries and elections," UC3M Working papers. Economics we1315, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. Departamento de Economía.
    10. Fernando Aragon, 2009. "Candidate nomination procedures andpolitical selection: evidence from LatinAmerican parties," STICERD - Economic Organisation and Public Policy Discussion Papers Series 003, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
    11. Evrenk, Haldun & Lambie-Hanson, Timothy & Xu, Yourong, 2013. "Party-bosses vs. party-primaries: Quality of legislature under different selectorates," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 29(C), pages 168-182.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D23 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Organizational Behavior; Transaction Costs; Property Rights
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty


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